There's no question that bipolar disorder can affect sex drive (libido) and impact relationships. During a manic state, a person's sex drive can shift into high gear, causing an inability to feel satisfied and increasing the likelihood of engaging in risky or inappropriate sexual behavior. Conversely, when a person is in a state of depression, he/she may have little or no interest in sex.

Low sex drive can also be a result of side effects of medication taken to treat the bipolar disorder. This can cause some patients to stop taking their medication, which can send them into either a manic or depressive episode. And the depression that accompanies bipolar disorder can also contribute to sexual dysfunction including erectile dysfunction (ED, impotence) in men.

But there are things people with bipolar disorder can do to prevent erratic sexual behavior and avoid jeopardizing their relationships.

  • It's important to pay attention to symptoms and triggers when you have bipolar disorder—and this certainly is true when it comes to sexual behavior. If you know your triggers and symptoms, you can let your partner know when to watch for signs of hypersexual behavior or lack of sexual interest.
  • Medications can have sexual side effects, so you should discuss possible alternatives with your doctor—consider those that don't affect sexual activity.
  • People with bipolar disorder and their partners should be aware that during manic episodes, patients are more likely to engage in reckless sexual behavior—sometimes including having sex with multiple partners. So steps should always be taken to protect against STDs and unplanned pregnancies.
  • Perhaps most important step of all is for bipolar patients and their partners to communicate openly about the impact the disorder could have on their relationship and make sure that they address any sexual issues before they undermine the relationship.
  • Seek professional help. It may be beneficial to utilize therapy along with medical treatment to help work through tough issues for both patients and partners. Patients and partners may experience additional benefit in seeking therapy alone as well as a couple.

Getting bipolar disorder under control is the first step at reclaiming a healthy sex life. When moods are stable, addressing underlying issues is easier for both patient and provider.

If bipolar disorder is stable, sexual issues should hopefully become stable as well. There are many people with bipolar disorder who are able to have healthy relationships and satisfying sex lives. They key is to not give up: continue to work with health care professionals to seek answers to the problems, and keep the lines of communication open between patients and their partners.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 19 May 2014

Last Modified: 19 May 2014